Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dream for Computers to Process at the Speed of Light Renewed by Brazilian Beetle

"Researchers have been unable to build an ideal 'photonic crystal' to manipulate visible light, impeding the dream of ultrafast optical computers. But now, University of Utah chemists have discovered that nature already has designed photonic crystals with the ideal, diamond-like structure: They are found in the shimmering, iridescent green scales of a beetle from Brazil.

'It appears that a simple creature like a beetle provides us with one of the technologically most sought-after structures for the next generation of computing,' says study leader Michael Bartl, an assistant professor of chemistry and adjunct assistant professor of physics at the University of Utah. 'Nature has simple ways of making structures and materials that are still unobtainable with our million-dollar instruments and engineering strategies.'

Researchers are seeking photonic crystals as they aim to develop optical computers that run on light (photons) instead of electricity (electrons). Right now, light in near-infrared and visible wavelengths can carry data and communications through fiberoptic cables, but the data must be converted from light back to electricity before being processed in a computer.

The goal -- still years away -- is an ultrahigh-speed computer with optical integrated circuits or chips that run on light instead of electricity.

'You would be able to solve certain problems that we are not able to solve now,' Bartl says. 'For certain problems, an optical computer could do in seconds what regular computers need years for.'"1
When computers gain the ability to process data at 186,00 miles per second, the question then becomes:

Will we have reached the roof of the speed at which anything can travel, atom or AVI?

Or, will we manifest a schema for breaking Einstein's cosmic constant, the speed of light, bringing humanity to a level of interaction beyond the known laws of today's physics?

1Diamond-Like Crystals Discovered In Brazilian Beetle Solve Issue For Future Optical Computers

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Happen's When a Crocodile, Herd of African Buffalo, and 6 Lions Tussle?

Battle at Kruger is one of the most popular videos on Youtube, with 31,750,375 views to date, but if you have not seen it, it is most certainly worth your eight minutes. Such extraordinary interspecies battles are seen, if one is lucky, once in a lifetime. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You Think it is Bad Now...

The New York Times reports that "Oil prices have nearly doubled in a year," and furthermore, "As demand continues to outpace the growth in oil supplies, analysts expect little relief in prices. A shortfall in supplies over the next two years will probably send oil to $150 to $200 a barrel, Goldman Sachs said in a new report.

Analysts’ forecasts for the price of gasoline over the next few years run as high as $7 a gallon."

This sounds pretty ominous. I am praying that they are overestimating. But, I know in my heart analysts, economists, and reporters typically underestimate these numbers. One can only hope that this time we experience the exception rather than the rule.

However, evidence for such positivity is scarce. For according to the above quoted NY Times article published just six days ago, "
the government said it expected gasoline prices to peak at a national average of $3.73 a gallon in June, just as the summer driving season kicks off." And yet, we're barely half way through May and we've already hit that mark.

The Times also reports that "Some private analysts have gone beyond the Energy Department’s forecasts, predicting that gasoline will surpass $4 a gallon this summer." But at the rate we're currently going, I think we're primed to be there before summer even begins (June 21st)!

I think I have chosen the most expensive summer to travel across

Read the NY Times article

See the AAA's national gas estimates

McDonalds hamburger & fries virtually unchanged since they were served 4 years ago!

Wow this is grotesque. I may never have fast food again...or at least for a very very very long time.

Is there TOO Much Freedom of the Press?

"In a 'State of the First Amendment Survey' conducted by the University of Connecticut in 2003, 34 percent of [high school-age] Americans polled said the First Amendment 'goes too far'; 46 percent said there was too much freedom of the press; 28 percent felt that newspapers should not be able to publish articles without prior approval of the government; 31 percent wanted public protest of a war to be outlawed during that war; and 50 percent thought the government should have the right to infringe on the religious freedom of 'certain religious groups' in the name of the war on terror."

This is pretty horrifying.

Have teenagers missed the unequivocal point that without freedom of speech and press there is no freedom at all. For I know teenagers of all people value independence and liberty...I mean isn't that what those hectic years are all about, liberating oneself from one's parents?

So why this disconnect?

Exactly what America have these teens grown up in that could allow for this myopic and inane comprehension of the relationship between freedom, human rights, and communication on such a massive scale to exist, and, persist?

Is this a sign of a tired, weak, mindless parental populace drifting to institutions like the government to tell them and their children what to know, say, and do, so they don't have to breech the perceived security of their ignorance and think for themselves?

Whatever it is, if there is any war worth fighting, it is the battle to preserve/augment the quality of the minds of a future America against fecklessness, dogma, idiocy and indolence.

What kind of parent are you, or are you going to be? Don't become one of these. Don't become yet another member of humanity that slows down the healthy evolution of our species because you're too scared to push the static boundaries of your psychic comfort for truth and intelligence.

(Incidentally, if you are a parent and this is the first time you have really thought about this, it may already be too late for you.)

Read the rest of Gore Vidal's article in the Huffington Post: President Jonah
More on the survey itself:

Monday, May 12, 2008

The 100,000-Man Strong Private Army is Setting up Shop in California

A 100,000+ privately contracted company has been operating beyond any rule of law for several years now in Iraq. Their dead (perhaps around 800+ people) aren't counted. And when they kill innocents and "friendlies" they are not adjudicated, so they pay no penance and are thus awarded more contacts. This inevitably leads to more deaths of harmless women and children that incite the hatred which breeds new insurgents. And so, you can see, the cycle is fecklessly perpetuated, a cycle mind you, that pays some in spades.

No one even knew half of the war was being fought by companies that are essentially corporate mercenaries whose primary obligation is to their shareholders. That is, until Blackwater showed up on the news all the sudden because one of these wrongful deaths got out on tape to the world media at large. Since then, they have been under fire in US courts and under long senate investigations related to wrongful deaths, gang rape and other such horrors. Yet, few know more about them and these wrongful death incidents now, than a year ago - and they are opening a "training camp" facility in the hills of North California.

The immunity and elusiveness of gun-for-hire like entities such as Blackwater begs all sorts of ominous questions.

Is this the army of the future? And if so, will America be safer, held of higher esteem abroad, and make new friends and new ground in the so-called "war on terror" as a result?

I don't think so. When the government dubs massive, cutting edge weapon-equipped, ex-Navy Seal-stocked super-armies immune to law, the more violent - and more deadly - the places they operate in become, for friend and foe, at home and abroad. For, who has control over them?

If you assess this analysis as overstating important truths and facts - please let me know. But, at least watch this video first:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Computer Game's High Score Could Earn The Nobel Prize In Medicine"

"A new game, named Foldit, turns protein folding into a competitive sport. Introductory levels teach the rules, which are the same laws of physics by which protein strands curl and twist into three-dimensional shapes -- key for biological mysteries ranging from Alzheimer's to vaccines.

After about 20 minutes of training, people feel like they're playing a video game but are actually mouse-clicking in the name of medical science. The free program is at

'We're hopefully going to change the way science is done, and who it's done by,' said Popovic, who presented the project today at the Games for Health meeting in Baltimore. 'Our ultimate goal is to have ordinary people play the game and eventually be candidates for winning the Nobel Prize.'

Proteins, of which there are more than 100,000 different kinds in the human body, form every cell, make up the immune system and set the speed of chemical reactions. We know many proteins' genetic sequence, but don't know how they fold up into complex shapes whose nooks and crannies play crucial biological roles.

Computer simulators calculate all possible protein shapes, but this is a mathematical problem so huge that all the computers in the world would take centuries to solve it. In 2005, Baker developed a project named Rosetta@home that taps into volunteers' computer time all around the world. But even 200,000 volunteers aren't enough.

'Long-term, I'm hoping that we can get a significant fraction of the world's population engaged in solving critical problems in world health, and doing it collaboratively and successfully through the game,' David Baker, a UW professor of biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, said. 'We're trying to use the brain power of people all around the world to advance biomedical research.'

Foldit includes elements of multiplayer games in which people can team up, chat with other players and create online profiles. Over time the researchers will analyze people's moves to see how the top players solve puzzles. This information will be fed back into the game's design so the game's tools and format can evolve."

(A sample of protein folding variations)

Source: Computer Game's High Score Could Earn The Nobel Prize In Medicine

Will Oil be Replaced by Photosynthesis

“'This is really the first detailed picture ever obtained of the molecular mechanism behind the regulation of light harvesting energy,' Fleming said. 'We believe we will soon be in position to build a complete model of the flow of energy through the photosynthetic light harvesting system that will include how the flow is controlled. This model could then be applied to the engineering of artificial versions of photosynthesis.'”

And why would humans want to control photosynthesis?

ScienceDaily answers, "Through photosynthesis, green plants are able to harvest energy from sunlight and convert it to chemical energy at an energy transfer efficiency rate of approximately 97 percent. If scientists can create artificial versions of photosynthesis, the dream of solar power as the ultimate green and renewable source of electrical energy could be realized."

Interestingly, plants have a photon sensitivity so acute that according to Graham Fleming, the lead researcher in this study, plants "will even respond to the passing of clouds overhead.”

This is remarkable, however, it has been one of the main obstacles in the way of utilizing photosynthesis to quell vast energy consumption demands. That is, we cannot base our world on a system that's energy capacity would fluctuate with the presence and density of cloud cover, or on the other hand would overheat on really hot days - power delays and outages would be widespread.

So, the idea is by learning how the exceedingly efficient process of photosynthesis occurs with enough detail to successfully replicate it and compensate for the affects of weather fluctuations, we may be able to harness the power of the sun as plants have done for 1,300 million years.

This would virtually wipe out the global energy crisis, and impede new torrents of human created carbon dioxides from cooking Earth much further.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"with each broken shoelace out of one hundred broken shoelaces, one man, one woman, one things enters a madhouse"

"The Shoelace"

a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
disease, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there -
licence plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
lightswitch broken, mattress like a
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
sears roebuck;
and the phone bill’s up and the, market’s
and the toilet chain is
and the light has burned out -
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
your friends;
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
and purple

or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.

2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your

with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
enters a

so be careful
when you
bend over.

by Charles Bukowski

More Bukowski:

- "The Crunch"
- "So you want to be a writer?"

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men at 16

At 16, I was not able to appreciate the unmistakable harshness of what really is the average human's life. That is to say, I knew people starved to death half way across the world, I knew there were dictators, and so on. But these are the extremes.

I did not recognize small silent suffering. For I didn’t know the man who spends his whole life toiling to no tangible end – working to work. I did not recognize wretched solitude. For I did not know he who spends his existence hopelessly drift..
At 16, I was not able to appreciate the unmistakable harshness of what really is the average human's life. That is to say, I knew people starved to death half way across the world, I knew there were dictators, and so on. But these are the extremes.

I did not recognize small silent suffering. For I didn’t know the man who spends his whole life toiling to no tangible end – working to work. I did not recognize wretched solitude. For I did not know he who spends his existence hopelessly drifting through the mass of humanity unable to connect with another – living only for himself.

These experiences being so far from the life of a middle class high school student enjoying himself and his youth, I first understood the story of Of Mice and Men as a comedy, albeit tragic at times.

Of Mice and Men at 23

Reading it a second time, however, a year after graduating from college, months after working in Child Inpatient Psychiatric Services, and hundreds of hours of studying international affairs, my perception of this book has notably changed.

This time, I also laughed. But instead of laughing at misery, I laughed at hope, that is, Lennie’s dogged hope to beat work and live off the fat of the land. For even after killing Curly’s wife with his bare hands, Lennie pressed George to tell him about how they were going to have their own piece of land where they would be their own bosses and where he could tend the rabbits. Such indefensible optimism tickled my funny bone. At 16, I appreciated such seemingly impervious positivity.

So at 16 I found misery amusing and hope serious, while at 23 I found misery serious and hope amusing – interesting.

Ergo, it appears on the second go-around I understood Steinbeck’s work as a tragedy, though not without comedy.

The Ice-axe and the Mirror

Kafka said “A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul,” and I agree with this notion. But after a second read, years and years later, a book may become a mirror through which to observe and survey the ever-evolving nature of our thawing and unfrozen seas, illuminating the very reverberations of the axe’s stroke.
This is one of my favorite character descriptions in Of Mice and Men (see if you can figure who it is):

“There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke...His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.”

(It's Slim, "the jerk line skinner")

Friday, May 2, 2008

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" - and if they are not?

"Delusion Dwellers" by Laurie Lipton
Popular Delusions

Reading the February/March 2008 edition Scientific American Mind, I ran into a rather illuminating piece, called "Popular Delusions," on the prevalence of misconceptions the American masses seem bound to behold.

If we are to ever evolve past this limited and disadvantageous plateau of human understanding, identifying the source is the first step. Once identified, we are considerably more likely to move out of the dank tunnels of ignorance and into a place where we see ourselves as we actually are.

"According to polls conducted in 2003 and 2007, Americans held several misperceptions about the war in Iraq. For example:
  • In March 2003, only 35 percent of Americans correctly perceived that most people in the world at large were opposed to the decision to go to war with Iraq.
  • In May 2003, 22 percent of Americans said that Iraq had actually used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops.
  • In September 2003, 24 percent of Americans believed that the U.S. has found evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
  • In 2007, 33 percent of Americans still believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks."1
Although these are all unnerving, I would have to say the last one is the worst. Can you really believe that just last year, fours years since the invasion, a third of America still believed Saddam had a hand in 9/11 - even though the only evidence given to public has been the statements by Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell and Cheney which have all been falsified?

If you still would like to refute this, read the following quote and then click here: "On April 29, 2007, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said on 60 Minutes, 'We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period.'"2

The Source of our Delusions

The most illustrative and flabbergasting part of this Scientific American Mind article is that "Among those who used Fox News as their primary news source, 80 percent held one such erroneous view." In comparison," 55 percent of CNN watchers, 47 percent of print newshounds and only 23 percent of the PBS-NPR audience believed in at least one such myth."

I think the facts are indisputable here and suggest that unless one genuinely diversifies their news intake, especially with at least one publicly-funded body, they may find that up to 80% of what they believe on a specific issue is total farce.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

It makes one wonder how many people who have been doped by these misperceptions are going to vote in the upcoming election and what that means for the quality of life in America.

For, let us not forget the infamous words of Thomas Jefferson: "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,"3 and if they are not?

We are likely to end up in more and ever-worse debacles than the Iraq War - Iraq may in fact be just a piece of the result of a generally ignorant American people and politicos.

1 "Popular Delusions."February/March 2008. Scientific American Mind.
2 Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
3 Thomas Jefferson Quotes